It was just an old belief that said being near the seaside was good for you and your health. But now, more studies prove that this is actually true.
Despite the negative connotation that some people have when they hear the word ocean - deadly sharks, tsunami, flood, storm surge, and other catastrophes, research actually shows that being able to spend time by the ocean has many positive effects on our health and well-being.
However, the fact that being near a beach can make one feel healthy is surprisingly not new. Experts were prescribing trips to the shore or visits to bathing hospitals which refer to special clinics that offered seawater bath treatments which have been used by people as early as the 18th century. Though it is only recently when scientists have begun studying the ocean's health benefits experimentally,
Several doctors from around the world have also begun studying how natural water environments can be used to promote human health and well-being. In fact, in one of these experiments, the participants were shown photographs of ocean views, green fields or cities, and asked how much they were willing to pay for a hotel room with each of those views. The results showed that most people were willing to pay more for the room with an ocean view.
“It's not going to be any great surprise to you that people relax in a beach environment," according to a study. The question here is how many people experience such health effects, and how much these effects impact people's health.
There are also census data in several countries collected to see how living near a coast affects people's health. They found that people who lived closer to the coast reported better health.
It is actually possible that the people living closest to the coast are simply wealthier and have better access to health care. But then several studies found that the health benefits of the ocean proximity were the greatest when it comes to socioeconomically deprived communities.
Many researchers also looked at the effects of moving near the coast. They have observed that moving closer to the sea significantly improves people's well-being by about a tenth as much as finding a new job. The seaside environment may reduce stress and encourage physical activity.
These researchers are now doing several intensive lab experiments to study the physiological benefits of coastal life. In these experiments, people who are in stressful situations, such as dental surgery, look at either a virtual beach or the dental room. As the trial is ongoing, early studies suggest people report feeling less pain when immersed in a beach setting.
These studies suggest that ocean exposure could be a very useful form of therapy. For instance, surfing might improve the well-being of troubled kids.
Many questions remain, though, but future studies will have to consider whether children and other sectors of the human population will also show the same benefits from coastal living and what is the optimal "dose" of time spent at the ocean might be, and how long the health effects last.
It also remains unclear how growing human communities might affect the beach environment because it's not going to be so great if everyone starts moving to the beach.